For as long as human beings have walked the earth, they’ve also been running on it. Running was a tool for survival, used to hunt or get away from enemies. Now it’s a sport and the favorite activity of thousands of Americans. It’s a great way to stay healthy and in shape. It can take a real toll on your feet and ankles, though, potentially leading to running injuries.
Your feet are your body’s foundation and the support structures for any activity, including running. They allow you to push off the ground to propel you forward. When you run, your feet are doing multiple things at once. As your foot lands, it absorbs the impact of striking a hard surface. It then distributes your body weight and motion forward through the foot. At the end, it pushes off the ground through the toes to continue your stride. At the same time, your foot has to adjust to any unevenness in the surface below you and maintain your balance. All of this together means your feet are under incredible stress every time you go out for a run.
The Painful Result
If your feet aren’t conditioned to handle this kind of stress, they are vulnerable to damage. Overuse issues are common—particularly for people starting new routines or sharply increasing the intensity of a current one. Your feet may be prepared for the heavy pounding, but biomechanical problems like overpronation and accidents can still give way to running injuries. Even wearing worn out shoes increases your risk for foot pain while running. Here are a few of the issues that can arise:
Plantar Fasciitis – Aggravation of the plantar fascia band creates intense heel pain, particularly when you put stress or pressure on the foot. This overuse injury can sideline you for an extended period of time.
Achilles Tendinitis – Straining the Achilles causes it to thicken and stiffen painfully, making your push-off weaker and more uncomfortable. If this progresses too far, you risk tearing the tendon as well.
Metatarsalgia – This general term refers to pain and inflammation in the ball of the foot. Striking the ground and pushing off again can irritate the bones and soft tissues there.
Neuromas – Nerve damage like this happens when a nerve gets pinched under pressure. Not only is this painful, but the damage could be permanent if you don’t take care of it.
Stress Fractures – When your feet are fatigued, they may not absorb hard impacts efficiently and instead strain the bone tissue. This can create small, painful cracks that weaken your feet overall.
Shin Splints – If your feet are not well conditioned, the muscles and connectors in your shins may not be able to handle the strain of running. This can lead to pain and swelling in the shins when you’re active.
Sprains – Overstretching ligaments that support a joint is painful and destabilizes the limb. This can occur in several joints, though the ankle and the big toe are the most vulnerable in the lower limbs.
A Healthy, Pain-Free Run
Many running injuries are preventable, and all are treatable if they do develop. The key to avoiding foot pain while running is to take care of your feet before an injury occurs. Make sure your shoes are properly fitted and meet all of your support needs. Replace worn-out pairs and break the new ones in over time. Always warm up before and cool down after a run. When starting a new routine or increasing the intensity of your current one, take it slow and condition your feet to handle the pounding. Consider cross-training to help with the conditioning process, too.
If pain does strike, don’t try to run through it. Let the Martin Foot and Ankle podiatry team help diagnose the problem and get you on track for recovery. This may mean decreasing or taking a break from your regular running routine. However, healing your feet is important. Pushing through an injury could lead to worse problems in the long run. Don’t take your feet for granted. Contact our Lancaster, Lititz, York, or Hanover, PA, podiatry offices for an appointment. Call (717) 757-3537 or use our web request form to reach us.